Coons shares stories from sexual assault survivors on Senate floor

Coons shares stories from sexual assault survivors on Senate floor
© Greg Nash

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsMnuchin says carbon capture tax credit guidance will be out soon Mnuchin signals administration won't comply with subpoena for Trump tax returns Menendez, Rubio lead Senate effort to regulate Venezuelan sanctions MORE (D-Del.) on Thursday shared stories on the Senate floor of sexual assault survivors, calling for lawmakers to see the outpouring of support for the women accusing Brett Kavanaugh as "bigger" than "the question of one Supreme Court seat." 

Coons said survivors have mobilized in a "unique" way following Christine Blasey Ford's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. Ford during the hearing detailed her allegation that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in 1982. Kavanaugh has forcefully denied the accusation. 

"Today, I want to take a moment and share with members of this chamber and folks who may be watching something else that was happening during that entire hearing that I did not expect — that was powerful and unique and special in my experience as a public servant," Coons said. 

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"This conversation is bigger ... more pressing and I’d say it’s more important than the question of one Supreme Court seat and one nominee," Coons said. "It’s a question of whether we as a country, at the highest levels of power, believe victims and survivors of sexual assault and are willing to listen to them, to believe them and to take action." 

Coons said victims of sexual assault emerged in droves to share their experiences with him after the hearing.

He highlighted several of their stories.

"One friend from Delaware, a cancer survivor, someone I’ve spoken about on this floor before because her survival of a nearly life-ending cancer, she confided in me she was terrorized and raped as a small child," Coons said. "Living with the effects of that experience, she said, has been way harder than cancer." 

He also shared a story from a "male friend" who was assaulted by an authority figure during a biology field trip to Mexico.

"His comment was, he was too shocked to call for help and did not tell anyone for over three decades," Coons said.

The speech was largely a response to President TrumpDonald John TrumpComey: Barr is 'sliming his own department' GOP Mueller critic says Flynn contacted him during special counsel probe: report Acting DHS secretary threatened to quit after clashing with Miller: report MORE, who in a tweet last month called into question why Ford waited decades to come forward with the allegation.

Trump's tweet sparked a hashtag, #WhyIDidntReport, in which survivors shared the obstacles that deterred them from alerting the authorities about their experiences of sexual assault, abuse and exploitation. 

"'I had known him four years,' one victim said," Coons recounted. "'Because he was sorry,' 'because I was drunk,' 'because I was young and ashamed and felt like I had somehow asked for it.'" 

"'Because my counselor said they won’t believe you because you’re not a pretty girl,'" he read.

Coons is a close friend of Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeProtesters who went viral confronting Flake cheered at award event Feinstein to introduce bill raising age to purchase assault weapons after California shooting Pollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge MORE (R-Ariz.), one of the pivotal swing votes in Kavanaugh's nomination process. Flake huddled with Coons last week before making the dramatic demand that the FBI open up a one-week investigation into the allegations against Kavanaugh. 

Coons on Thursday said that Kavanaugh will likely be "narrowly" confirmed. He made the remark after the FBI released its report, which senators took turns reviewing throughout the day.